Egyptian Extravaganza at the Colab Factory

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Egyptian Extravaganza plays at the warehouse space the Colab Factory in SE1 this week. It is an immersive production which attempts to question cultural appropriation, by taking 1920’s Egypt as a setting and by introducing us to Tutankhamun.

Tutankhamun him/herself (played by Holli Dillon) is the best thing about this. She is witty and fun to watch and saves the ‘extravaganza’ from being merely weird. However the rest of the show is hard to follow and messy despite brave turns by some of the other actors. The immersive element of it starts out ok, as we descend into the rather dank basement which has been enlivened by incense, and come across various characters in 1920’s gear. A procession leads in, with ‘King Tut’ at the back of it, speaking solemnly in what we believe to be Egyptian incantations. As she sits in her throne, and we get to admire her stunning golden attire (the legwear alone is amazing) she starts speaking in a modern American slang and reveals to us that the objective of this gathering (which we are a part of) is to have a big party.

I can’t tell you much about the plot, as there isn’t really one to speak of. Instead of a narrative, we are introduced to a few scenes, and invited to follow the cast around into the corners of the basement as they change costumes and characters a few times. King Tut mostly sits amongst us, calling out witticisms about what is going on, winning over the audience. The overriding theme is that none of us really know what happened back in Ancient Egypt, nor in the 20’s when the ancient Pharaoh’s tomb was discovered practically intact by English archaeologist Howard Carter. Carter is played by actor Leah Kirby, who throws herself into the mayhem of the part with much silliness and humour and a few stick-on or maybe drawn-on moustaches.

After about 40 minutes Holli Dillon takes off her headdress and suddenly and disarmingly explains that she is an actor. We are pretty much taken aback by this (despite her only pointing out the obvious) as she proceeds to question the audience about our views on cultural appropriation. It is an interesting step, to break the fourth wall in this way, and I applaud the actors for their bravery here as it feels pretty uncomfortable and silent at first, but some members of the audience get into the spirit of it and join in the conversation. However it made me personally want to run away in pure British embarrassment.

WIGS 1/5

By Hatty Uwanogho

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Brighton Wig Awards

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This was our first year attending the Brighton Fringe and Festival and will certainly not be our last, and was an extremely fun and theatrically powerful bank holiday weekend on the south coast. So for the first time ever, it is time to announce the Brighton Wig Awards!

Awards for the Brighton Wig Awards 2016 include ‘The Venue Award’, ‘The Free Theatre Award’ and, of course, the round up of our favourite shows at the Brighton Festival and Fringe culminating in the award of the ‘Brighton Wig’ to our favourite show. Judging this year has been carried out by The Ginger Wig and the Ginger Viking!

The Venue Award

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Close runners-up in this category include the charming Bosco Spiegeltent and the perfectly situated Republic, but the winner of the 2016 Brighton Wig Venue Award goes to the groovy Distrikt at The Spire Arts Centre. This converted church has some beautiful stained glass windows and now serves drinks and has great art and theatre like No Offence’s ‘Torn Apart (Dissolution)‘.

The Free Theatre Award

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We saw some great free theatre in Brighton, including the participatory ‘Masquerade‘ by yello brick theatre company and the ridiculous ‘Brickhead‘. But there can only be one winner. This year, our free theatre award goes to the hilarious LoveHardComedy, giving us some of the most bizarre gags within a well constructed horror-themed comedy show. Well done to the LoveHard lads. Read our review here.

The Runners-Up to the Brighton Wig Award

5. LoveHard – They won our Free Theatre Award for good reason!

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4. Hotel Black Cat – sexy, sinister and scintillating cabaret and burlesque from the Black Cat Cabaret team. Read our review here.

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3. The Thermos Museum – brilliantly weird fringe comedy. Unique in its hilarity and strangeness. Read our review here.

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2. The Bookbinder – a heartwarming charmer for all to enjoy from Kiwi theatre company Trick of the Light. Read our review here.

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And the Brighton Ginger Wig Award of 2016….

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How could we look anywhere else than Hydrocracker Theatre and Blast Theory’s exceptional ‘Operation Black Antler’, taking us deep into the world of undercover surveillance, through one of the best constructed immersive theatre game experiences we have ever been lucky enough to enjoy. The Ginger Wig and Strolling Man will have our eyes on these two companies for their future work. They have set a very high standard! Check out our review of ‘Operation Black Antler’ here.

That concludes our 2016 Brighton Wig Award. Look out for the upcoming Edinburgh Wig Award and the big one, our first ever Ginger Wig Award from a whole year of theatre everywhere!

Switchboard by Produced Moon at Marlborough Theatre

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Our second day at the Brighton Fringe began with another technology-based piece called ‘Switchboard’ by Produced Moon. Having already taken part in two other shows which specifically stated the need for a fully charged phone, we were keen to see how this piece would utilise our mobiles.

We were led by ‘Maintenance’ to Brighton Pavilion and were there given instructions about how we would be contacting the ‘Switchboard’. With the relevant numbers saved we then awaited a call. When it came, we were told to wander off into the pavilion and observe the people and the world around us. We were told we would be joining a special network on the switchboard and would be getting in contact with someone. That someone was Aya, an Egyptian lesbian.

We were asked to respond to her and continue exploring the pavilion. We were also asked to talk about a favourite childhood park we visited and at one point told to demand change for the injustices of the world by shouting CHANGE! Ultimately, this piece was about the ownership of a narrative, as it soon became clear that Aya was in fact a made up person, which an American writer had created from the stories of others.

This was an interesting focus for a piece and certainly the main question raised was something our group had to think long and hard about. However, some of this piece seemed disconnected. Furthermore, we didn’t seem to have too much influence on the interactive element, as it felt like we were all getting the same texts. It raised the question over whether this was the right medium to be telling this story.

Nonetheless this was an inventive attempt at storytelling and with brand new technology trailed it was exciting to be a part of it. Furthermore I don’t think we would have ever explored the beautiful Brighton Pavilions had we not been to this show. A good attempt at a new form of theatre.

Highlight of the piece – speaking to Produced Moon to understand the piece and exploring the pavilion.

WIGS 3/5

The Ginger Wig

Operation Black Antler by Hydrocracker and Blast Theory at Brighton Festival

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What is it like to try an infiltrate a far-right group in the name of public security?  Police forces up and down the country have been doing it for years. The far-right has always been present in the UK reinventing itself over the years. ‘Operation Black Antler’ was a chance for us to experience exactly what it feels like to become a ‘shallow swimmer’ in the murky world of surveillance, in this brilliant immersive piece of theatre.

Meeting on London Road in Brighton we were texted by our ‘contact’ and directed to a grotty flat, to receive tea and a briefing of the group we were to be infiltrating and how exactly we were to go about this. Paired with Irish couple, Declan and Lasy, residents of Brighton for over 10 years, we felt confident that we were going to give this a good go. We were to be ‘COMM’s’ and would receive communication from the HQ throughout the mission.

Our target was Mickey, a former soldier. It was our job to find out why he left the military. The location was a pub round the corner where a a local family were fundraising to get their daughter Rachel into the army. Declan and Lasy knew the pub, so that was covered, but we couldn’t enter as ourselves. Instead we had to come up with full background, different, identities, and most importantly a reason to try and get into this party. The Ginger Wig was now godson to the Murphy’s…

We walked to the pub and after smooth talking the bouncer we were in. We knew Mickey liked football and therefore approached the only guy in the pub in a football shirt. He was not Mickey. Then we encountered Rachel and found out that Mickey knew her dad. We tried to find here dad – “stripy shirt” – but he was nowhere to be found. And then we alighted on a quiet looking chap in a cap. This was Mickey. We then spent the next thirty minutes trying to first get close to him before eventually engaging him in conversation. With three of us undercover and all trying to find out the same thing, Mickey skilfully avoided our probing whilst remaining friendly as his views slowly started to seep out. Naturally we played along with them pretending to be the aggressive far right yoof we had embodied. Declan’s views on Brexit also helped to win Mickey round.

We thought we had lost him, but some last minute questioning finally get the facts out. We had achieved our objective. But now he wanted to introduce us to someone new. We couldn’t say no or our cover would be blown. And so we were led into the back of the pub. Here we really started to feel the heat. Luckily this came across as a steely determination to act and keep those pesky foreigners out of the UK. We almost cracked, and certainly a situation with our mobile that would of blown out entire cover was fortuitously avoided thanks to Mickeys bad eyesight and eventually the three of us got out with more than enough information on the group.

We were met by another contact, although it was not who we thought we would be meeting, so as a group we interrogated him. Once satisfied he was to be trusted, we and the other two teams gave all the information we had on this far right group. But now the main question. From everything we had heard, should we now send a deep swimmer in to infiltrate this group. Were they a threat? Did it require such drastic action? Collectively we decided no, although I can’t pretend I felt confident, that the following weekends activities would remain peaceful. None the less, we left the experience chatting animatedly with Declan and Lasy about our night of deep immersion.

This was a truly remarkable piece of theatre. There was a feeling of tension and excitement throughout this piece, generated by the very real world that we entered. Every element of this piece was meticulously planned, form the people briefing us, to the world we entered in the Rose Hill Tavern to the performance of the characters we met within. Without doubt this was the best ‘theatre game’ we have ever had the chance to be part of.

Highlight of the piece – The whole thing from start to finish was a masterpiece – more of this please!

WIGS 5/5

 

Masquerade by yello brick at the Brighton Festival

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Our first show at the 2016 Brighton Festival and it was a fully immersive one. Meeting on George Street in Hove we were led into the steam powered world of Ebenezer Gibson. Cries of “Steam powered land shark coming through” drew us to the event as we found several steam punk characters readying a crowd of people for a masquerade.

We danced and played games, whilst trying to climb the social ladder of our colony, as rumours and whispers spread of an upcoming revolution. Simultaneously we were sent text messages by our steam powered cellular devices, guiding us on how to dance and take part.

This was a very interesting experiment from ‘yello brick’ combining immersive performance and technology. We only wish there had been more storytelling. None the less we took infinite pleasure form the words of the Marquis in this fun and uplifting start to our first Brighton Festival!

Highlight of the show – Steam punk and street games, a winning combination.

WIGS 3/5

The Ginger Wig

Our Brighton Tips

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So, the Ginger Wig & Strolling Man are heading to Brighton, to experience their first taste of this festival by the sea. As England’s biggest theatre and performing arts festival and fringe festival, it is certainly not something we could miss. However, like any arts festival, trying to pick out what to see tends to be a bit of nightmare with programmes as thick as yellow pages and acts as diverse as ‘Future of Food: Burgers… Or Bugs?’, ‘The Bald Prima Donna’ and ‘Burt Lancaster Pierced my Hymen (When I Was 11)’. Therefore we have done some of the hard work for you and picked out the things we most recommend and would most like to see at this year’s Brighton Festival and Fringe.

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Akram Khan’s ‘Until The Lions’

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“Beautifully combining the classical Indian dance form kathak with contemporary dance, Until the Lions tells the tale of Amba, a princess abducted on her wedding day and stripped of her honour, who invokes the gods to seek revenge.”

The Encounter

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“In this solo performance, Simon McBurney traces McIntyre’s journey into the depths of the Amazon rainforest using binaural technology to build an intimate and shifting world of sound.”

Read our ‘The Encounter’ review here

Operation Black Antler

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“Enter the murky world of undercover surveillance and question the morality of state-sanctioned spying.”

The Last Resort

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“Amidst a barren landscape, a neon light stands bleak and stark. Welcome to The Last Resort. For those brave enough to return to this long deserted resort, beauty, science fiction and history merge to create a unique outdoor experience.”

Minefield

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“New work about the Falkland Islands/Islas Malvinas, developed with and performed by Argentinian and British veterans of the 1982 conflict.”

Masquerade

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“Enter the Masquerade Ball, a world of anonymity and duplicity that spins a web of lies and truth around its guests. Carry out tasks, hide your secrets, do whatever it takes to win. You will need to form bonds, break relationships and be ruthless in your pursuit of glory but remember… trust no one.”

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The Bookbinder

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“A story of mystery, magic and mayhem; weaving shadowplay, paper art, puppetry, and music into an original dark fairytale.”

Torn Apart (Dissolution)

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“Torn Apart (Dissolution) is about talking to your lover, drinking beer, ultimate rejection, the white picket fence fantasy, sexuality, the rules of being on a visa, The Berlin Wall, but mostly it’s about love.”

Switchboard

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“A phone rings. It keeps ringing. You answer the call. It’s for you. What happens next is in your hands.”

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The Thermos Museum

“Twelve suitcases unfold to reveal numerous astonishing displays. However, the public are not free to reign; visitors are escorted around the museum by a mysterious and disenchanted tour guide.”

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“Life is more than the days you have left. Jeff and Jasmine are diagnosed with a life threatening disease, but through each other they learn why life is worth being threatened.”

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Into The Water

“This foot-stomping, hand-tapping show transports audiences from a magical wasteland to a dreamlike world, where anything’s possible and friendship’s everything. Folk has never been so fun!”

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A Good Jew

“1938. Sol and Hilda play in the Frankfurt Sinfonietta. They’re in love. So what?
Well, Hilda’s father is a Nazi Official, and Sol is, of course, a Jew.”

How Eva Von Schnippisch Single-Handedly Won WW2

“Armed only with a ukulele and the power of song, Eva tells a comedic story of love, frankfurters, the other Eva . . . and de-bunks the bunker story once and for all.”

A Talent for Lying

“Lucy sits beside Aidan in a busy café. He says she knows him, but she doesn’t. Though determined not to be written into one of his stories, Lucy is persuaded to imagine a past she can’t remember.”

Fire Burn: The Tragedy of Macbeth

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“Three sisters meet to enact Macbeth’s fate. Their twisted prophecies transform him from a war hero into a paranoid tyrant in this brutal Shakespearean Tragedy. A man with bloody hands, his murdered friend’s ghost, a queen who sleepwalks – the witches bring them to life to the beat of Hecate’s drums.”

A Little Prince

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“A contemporary new musical adaptation of Saint-Exupéry’s ‘The Little Prince’ that will dazzle the youngest audiences, while seducing and capturing the adult ones.”

Anyway the Fringe and Festival have already started so get planning, get booking and get yourself down to Brighton!

 

28 Days Later by Secret Cinema

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Secret Cinema. Does it fall into the performing arts category? Should we be reviewing it? Of course we bloody should be. A Cinema theatre hybrid – it’s the greatest development in movies since the talkies! Our first experience with Secret Cinema was going to ‘The Lost Boys’ and we’ve been fans ever since. Nothing had topped that first insane sensory overload, until ’28 Days Later’. When we first saw the film, it blew us away for its style, music and Usain Bolt zombies. Secret Cinema did not disappoint us on putting their unique stamp on one of the UK’s best horror films.

Upon arrival at Canada Water, something was definitely afoot as hordes upon hordes of scrub wearing patients turned up and headed along to an old industrial site five minutes from the station. We were not among the hardcore (mugs) who chose to spend an extra £20 on special Secret Cinema scrubs, which certainly were not essential. The tickets are pricey enough.

We waited eagerly to enter the hospital facility to be checked for signs of the Rage virus. Someone told us to dispose of the rag we had hanging out of our pocket, that we had used to wipe up some zombie blood earlier. This was obviously not appropriate in a contamination zone… Once inside we talked to several doctors before heading in for our vaccination, a situation that was probably the most terrifying moment of the whole night. (No spoilers here!) What followed was an adrenalin fuelled immersion into the entire film featuring some tremendous set pieces and well performed vignettes from the movie. The energy and horror created by this experience had everyone sweating. One unlucky patron fell to the ground at one point. Once we had reached Frank and Hannah’s flat, it was clear she was in some distress, as someone in scrubs was helping her. As the medic turned around to ask if anyone was actually a real doctor we got a sight of a very real, very deep gash on the poor girl’s leg. She seemed like a nice girl, but as Selena said, with someone in that state, the concern is “whether they’re gonna slow you down”…  She was left behind… as supper for the zombs…

After many scares and narrow escapes, we got through to the quarantine section, guarded heavily by soldiers. Here there were dressed rooms from the movie, and vendors selling food and drink that we drastically needed as the adrenaline rush of the previous section had created quite an appetite. The chilli we ordered was delicious, and there was no skimping on the sour cream, coriander and cheese.The vaccination cocktails, were, from our taster, weird, disgusting and moreish, but to help the swamped bar staff we opted for cold beers instead.

After dinner, it was suddenly obvious that we were no longer in a safe zone, as the space had become a full on zombie apocalyptic rave. From our vantage point we thought we had the drop on the zombies, but they climbed and clambered their way up to us, startling us in the process. Some clever lighting and special effects made this even more intense as the DJ dropped some classic tunes.

Finally we went into the last space, that had elements of the opening of our immersion, to experience Jim, Selena and Frank, smash their way through hordes of the undead, as Secret Cinema brought the film to life all around us. It was an evening of total immersive entertainment. The size of an operation like Secret Cinema truly baffles. They created a vast world with sound effects, lighting effects and live actors, coupled with an insane amount of related online narrative and banging grub to boot. The smoothness of their operation is truly remarkable. With all of this, one can understand the price of the ticket. No one else is doing cinema like this. You would be a fool to miss it.

Highlight of the Night – being sent through for our first vaccination and the zombie rave.

WIGS 5/5

Virtually Dead by Bearded Kitten & HTC Vive in Hackney Wick

We we were told to wait under a bridge. A bridge in Hackney Wick. We were anticipating the latest immersive zombie experience to hit London – Virtually Dead. Produced by Bearded Kitten this was a zombie experience with an added dimension… We were also to be testing out HTC Vive’s brand new virtual reality headset!

A military jeep pulled up under the bridge and two soldiers stepped out and lined us up against the wall. Asking if we had done any specific training prior to this, we decided not to mention our recent trip down memory lane playing ‘House of the Dead’ late one night in Shepherds Bush. Someone said, ‘Time Crisis’ and was immediately shot down by the Sarge. These games would be no help to us when faced with the real thing. The reality, however, was these recent arcade trips were actually going to come in very handy…

Once transported to base, we went through basic training and encountered a series of soldiers who gradually revealed bits of the story. We came face to face with the ‘Phoenix’ virus in a very unnerving fashion, and then were eventually led into the main part of the event – testing the HTC Vive.

This was our first true taste of headset virtual reality and it was mind bending. Full 360 degree immersion with the ability to move, look around, crouch and duck and most importantly, blow zombies’ heads off with Desert Eagles, sawn-offs and Uzis. This was really cool gaming and very easy to pick up. We completed the game in record time, although we almost got noshed in the mines.

The small boy inside us was having a whale of a time and could have stayed in that room for another two hours. However, as the test ended we were suddenly aware of a panic in the real world and were rushed into a more thrilling section of the story, to face more undead and eventually discover the reason why we were needed…

Basically this was a glorified video game testing experience. On its own as an immersive zombie experience it probably wouldn’t warrant the price of the ticket, such was the slightly rough and ready nature of the storytelling, the slightly longwinded various intros and the basic arc of our story in the Cultek base. However for immersive theatre fans and zombie aficionados such as the Ginger Wig, put together any of the basic ingredients of scares, blood and guts, gunshots and, of course, audience participation and we will be very happy. Had it not have been for the Ginger Wig barricading several doors we would probably have finished the experience with fewer recruits than we started.

The real credit however, must go to HTC Vive for this impressive new technology. Being born in the 90s and experiencing much of the recent technological developments, it was clear that this was the first step towards a whole new world of technological possibilities. We knew it was coming but we didn’t know how cool and how much fun it would be. At £650 a pop though, you might want to wait for the price reductions.

Highlight of the show – testing the HTC Vive and coming face to face with a test subject in the lab. Our companion said, ‘it was the only time I thought of doing the emergency ‘hands on head get me out of here’ sign. Sadly in the darkness it wouldn’t have made much difference.

WIGS (Bearded Kitten) – 3/5

WIGS (HTC Vive) – 5/5